London, England

Travellers must always familiarise themselves with the local area, cultures and customs. By reading this guide, you’ll be better prepared and be able to enjoy your trip with less hassle.

It is incredibly important to have your wits about you whenever travelling to a new location.

There are, of course, always levels of risk but we hope that this guide gives you a better understanding of what to look out for and how to minimise it.

Travelling anywhere in the world has its own fair share of risk attached and travelling to Paris is no different. Many large cities throughout the world are prone to pickpockets and scams especially concerning tourists.

It is always advisable to get travel insurance to insure your belongings in case of loss or theft. Travel insurance is also advised in the event that you get ill or injured whilst travelling and you need emergency care. Company 1 & Company 2 both offer competitive rates for Travel Insurance.

Emergency Number – 999

Time Zone – GMT+0 (British Summer Time is GMT+1 between end of March – October)
Currency – GBP Sterling (£)
Population – 8.98 million

Size – 1,572 km²
GDP – £487 billion


Most visitors of European nationality will not be required to get a visa to enter the UK due to the Freedom of Movement. Some other countries such as the US, Canada, Brazil & Argentina will have visa-free entry for 90 days. To check whether you need a visa to enter the UK, please check here.


What is the currency?

The currency used in London is the British Pound (£). Denominations include £50, £20, £10, £5 in notes and coins including denominations of £1 and £2 and £0.50, £0.20, £0.10, £0.05, £0.02 and £0.01 pence.

Where can I get it?

The easiest way to get money in London is via the ATM machines located around the city, although you may want to check the exchange rate charged by your bank first.

How do I exchange it?

If you carry cash with you and want to exchange it into pound sterling then you can do so by following the signs for Bureau de Change located throughout the tourist areas. Just look for the obvious signs Money Exchange, Bureau de Change or simply Change.

If you prefer to buy your pound sterling before you travel and need a reliable and trustworthy company then we recommend XXX

You can check exchange rates here

Tips & Gratuities

Tips (or gratuities) are completely voluntary in the UK and open to any amount, high or small, or the customary decision to add 10-20% of the bill.

Although voluntary, there is a social expectation to provide a tip in restaurants if there is no service charge added. However, if you’re just buying a coffee in a small café or beer at the pub, a tip is rarely expected.

Average costs

Pint of Lager (Average Cost) – £5.19
Glass of Wine 125ml (Average Cost) – £4.07

The Law

There are no stand out laws in the UK that tourists should be cautious of.

All law abiding tourists will have no issues with the police and you are free to approach them if you need help.

It is against the law to be drunk and disorderly in a public place and being drunk in any highway or other public place. Although a drinking culture outside is very popular throughout the UK, it is worth noting that you cannot behave in a way that causes “Anti Social Behaviour”.

Almost all drugs are illegal in the UK and are divided into 3 classes ranging from A-C.


Reliable Numbers

In an emergency, contact the police, ambulance, or fire department on 999. This number is free to call – only use it in a genuine emergency.

  • Only use registered taxis or a reputable company that can track you such as Uber
  • Try to avoid walking alone at night. Keep to well-lit main roads
  • Beware of wearing headphones – they reduce awareness of your surroundings.
  • In Paris, cars drive on the right. To ensure you cross roads safely, only use designated crossings, only cross when the green light is showing.

Staying safe in bars and restaurants

It is paramount that travellers who are in unfamiliar cities are extra vigilant when in late night venues.

  • Make sure you keep your property out of sight and safely under the table.
  • Don’t accept drinks from strangers.
  • Check up on your friends by phone or text to make sure they got home safely and vice-versa.

Petty Theft

Petty theft can occur in London as it can anywhere else in the world. The key here is to be prepared before your travel.

  • Don’t leave your bag unattended anywhere in London – this can lead to a security alert
  • Keep your purse or wallet close to your body and don’t carry too much cash.
  • When using an ATM, check that no one is looking over your shoulder and that the ATM hasn’t been tampered with. Cover the keypad so no one else can see your PIN number.
  • Keep your mobile phone, MP3 player, camera, and other gadgets out of sight in your pocket or handbag when not in use.
  • Record details of your electronic serial numbers (ESNs).
  • Inform your service provider and police if your phone or other valuables are stolen or lost. Dial 112 for the police


Don’t be fooled by scam artists in London. There are a number of sophisticated scams which have been reported by travellers. Remember, if it seems to good to be true, it usually is.

Below are some of the most popular scams in London that you should be aware of.

Contactless card-readers on the Tube
One of the newest scams to hit the city is people carrying contactless card-readers in hidden places, such as bags or coats. Scammers will brush up against where you’ll typically keep your card (in a back pocket or the front of a rucksack). It only takes a few seconds for the payment to scan, so you might not even notice it’s happening. Contactless payments may be capped at £30, but it’s still a fair amount of spending money to lose on any trip to London. Protect yourself by wrapping your cards in foil, which acts as a barrier to the contactless signal or try Defender Note.

Fake theatre tickets
Be aware of scammers selling fake tickets, especially in Leicester Square. If you’re tempted by an offer for a theatre deal that sounds too good to be true, chances are it probably is. Always buys tickets from licensed box offices or from the theatre itself. All in all, be cautious of individual sellers in theatreland.

Fake charity collectors
Sadly, fake charity collectors do exist and they take advantage of kind-hearted and sympathetic individuals. To collect in a public space, charities always need to be registered and have a licence. All charity collectors must carry a collector’s permit, so before offering any money, ask to see this or any other official documentation, such as their charity’s registration number. Trust your instincts; if a collector seems vague about knowledge of the charity (or the use the money will be put to), don’t donate.

Borrowing your phone
Scammers like to prey on the general public’s generosity and many will ask to borrow your phone for a scenario that is hard to refuse. They might say they’ve lost their child or their bag has been stolen, and while some cases may be genuine, always be cautious when handing over your phone to someone and make sure they’re always in sight when they are using it.

Group Photos
Many scammers are aware of the trust the general public have when handing over a phone or camera to take a photo. Asking groups or families rather than individuals offering to take a photo is one way to ensure your phone (and all your precious memories from your city trip) won’t be stolen.

Snatch & Grab
A crime becoming more and more common in central London is thieves on bicycles and motorbikes. For many people, it’s pretty normal to walk along the pavement using a phone or holding a handbag on the side of their body that’s facing the road. However, thieves on two wheels take advantage of this and zoom along the road at high speeds waiting to snatch valuables within reach from passers-by.

Areas to Avoid

Although London is a safe city to visit there are areas where tourists should take caution. Tourists should stick to main areas and not venture into the large council estates within London. 

As a general rule of thumb, it is recommended to stay within the boundaries of the Circle Line Underground although this would exclude a few places that are perfectly safe but outside the Circle.

Tourists are unlikely to venture into the estates of Hackney, Peckham and Tottenham but knife crime in these places tend to be teenagers stabbing other teenagers in turf wars.

You are perfectly safe walking around the City and West End at night but do be streetwise as some parts around Soho can be alive with pickpockets and the like.

Terror Alert

London has been the victim of terrorist attacks in recent years.

The 2005 bombings killed 52 people and resulted in over 700 injuries when three bombs exploded on underground trains at Aldgate, Liverpool Street, Russell Square, Kings Cross St Pancras, Edgware Road & Paddington.

The 2017 terror attacks involved included a terrorist driving a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge before three more attacks took place on the same day. Attackers stabbed people in pubs and restaurants in nearby Borough Market and a van being driven into people walking near Finsbury Park Mosque.

In 2019 Police shot dead a suspect, wearing a suspected fake suicide vest after five people were injured in a stabbing incident near London Bridge.

Travellers should not allow terrorism to deter them from visiting such beautiful cities but it is paramount that they remain vigilant and note local advice.

You can find updated information on threat levels and security risks in London on the Met Police website.


Popular Phrases

English is the most widely spoken language on earth and London is one of the most culturally diverse cities too meaning that you will be able to converse with someone in your mother tongue wherever your are.

Londoners will be very happy to help tourists but many will not speak any other languages other than English. A good tool to use is Google Translate.

A handy phrase book to use in London would be XXX or you could brush up on your Cockey Rhyming slang to really make the locals laugh.

Books to read

The London Encyclopedia

Now in its third edition, The London Encyclopedia promises to be the most comprehensive book about London.

From history, to culture, to sightseeing, to maps and more, if you’re only going to have one London book on your shelf, then this should probably be it.

Do Not Pass Go

Named after the hugely successful Monopoly franchise, Do Not Pass Go: From the Old Kent Road to Mayfair creatively discusses the history of London (since the 1930s – aka when Monopoly was invented), as well as the history of the franchise itself in one fun-packed book.

Walk the Lines: The London Underground, Overground

Many people say that the only true way to discover a city is on foot.

The fact that there are several books about London in this list, which are related to walking tours and guides suggests that statement is probably true.

Walk the Lines: The London Underground, Overground tells the tale of Mark Mason, who decided to follow the entire length of the London Underground – above ground – before sharing what he found along the way, as well as what gossip he overheard.

Promising a deep look into London’s top sights, as well as local London life, this is a charming read.

84 Charing Cross Road

Spanning two decades of an endearing friendship and passionate love affair, 84 Charing Cross Road is based on the true story of when a woman from New York wrote to the owners of a shop (found at 84 Charing Cross Road in London), which specialised in rare and second-hand books at the time.

The story is told via a series of letters originally sent between the pair (starting in the 1940s), which also give a clue into what London was like back then and how Londoners behaved.

Today, there is a McDonald’s at 84 Charing Cross Road (a little less poetic perhaps), but there is a nod to the original shop, thanks to a plaque on the front of the building, which reads:

84 Charing Cross Road. The booksellers Marks & Co. were on this site which became world renowned through the book by Helene Hanff.


Of course, much of what we have covered is common sense. But now you should be aware of the risks posed to tourists whilst visiting London.

As one of the worlds most popular tourist destinations, it is worth remembering that the city relies on tourists and therefore police carry out foot patrols throughout the city to ensure the safety of tourists and the local population.

As we have already highlighted, please ensure that you have valid travel insurance that covers you for loss, theft and medical cover in the event that something happens to you or your family.

So now that you are equipped with this information, please enjoy London and let us know how you got on by tagging us #totalguide.


If you believe we have missed some information that may help other travellers, please let us know at